July 26, 2006

Antidepressant may calm irritable bowel

By Megan Rauscher

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Treatment with so-called SSRI
antidepressants seems to reduce abdominal symptoms and promote
overall well being in people with irritable bowel syndrome
(IBS), according to results of a small trial.

These antidepressants, Dr. Jan Tack told Reuters Health,
"could be considered in IBS patients who do not respond well
enough to a classical treatment approach."

SSRIs are often used in the treatment of IBS "although
evidence of their efficacy is scarce," Tack from University of
Leuven in Belgium and colleagues note in the journal Gut.

They therefore compared treatment with the SSRI citalopram
(brand name, Celexa) to treatment with an inactive "placebo" in
23 patients with IBS who were free of depression. They took one
or other of the pills for six weeks, then switched to the other
for six weeks after a three-week "washout" period.

"After three and six weeks of treatment, citalopram
significantly improved abdominal pain, bloating, impact of
symptoms on daily life, and overall well being compared with
placebo," the team reports.

Citalopram's ability to alleviate several IBS symptoms
seems unrelated to its effect on depression or anxiety, because
depressed patients were excluded from the study and changes in
mood did not correlate with IBS symptom improvement.

"Citalopram provided symptomatic benefit of rapid onset,
was well tolerated, and was not associated with the side
effects of tricyclic antidepressants, such as drowsiness or
constipation," Tack and colleagues point out.

SOURCE: Gut, August 1, 2006103.